St Finbarr's Oratory at Gougane Barra
St Finbarr's Oratory at
Gougane Barra

Gougane Barra, Co Cork

We were looking for a small, intimate church with lots of character for our wedding ceremony, so St Finbarr's Oratory at Gougane Barra was perfect. It's located at the source of the River Lee in west Cork, about 20 minutes from Bantry and an hour from Cork city.

The setting is beautiful, with the oratory located on a small island in the middle of a lake, within a forest park nestled among the Cork mountains.

The name Guágan Barra derives from St. Finbarr, who according to tradition, built his monastery on the island here in the 6th century. Guágan was at one time part of the territories of the O'Leary's who lost possession of the land in the plantation that followed the Cromwellian wars. Subsequently it passed to the Townsend family and ultimately the farming tenants under the Land Acts in the early part of this century.

The ruins on the island are not part of St. Finbarr's original settlement but were erected around 1700 by Rev. Denis O'Mahony who, following the footsteps of St. Finbarr, retired to a life of asceticism here. Because of its isolation, in the days of the Penal Laws people travelled from areas far beyond the bounds of the valley to hear Mass in Guágan Barra. One of the most famous 'Mass Path' was that which led from the Borlin Valley to the west via Gowlane Stream and down into Com Rua by way of the savage cleft of Poll.

Literary Links
Eric Cross's infamous book The Tailor and Antsy was classed as "indecent" by the Censorship of Publications board in 1942, and banned. The tailor of the title was Tim Buckley, and his wife was Anastasia ('Antsy'). They are both buried close to Gougane Barra, where they lived.

The Gougane Barra Hotel ran a literary season over the summer featuring a nightly performance of the play.